After reading this post and this post about vendors at NECC, I thought I would offer my perspective to the mix.
I was a first-timer at NECC this year. When you add up plane flight, hotel room, conference fees, food and other costs, especially in an expensive city like DC, an experience like NECC is a pricey proposition for a private school teacher like me. In other words, I might have spent another NECC reading tweets and blog posts instead of writing them, if not for a lucky break.
You're thinking I won the lottery, right?
I was at NECC this year because of my relationship with a vendor.
This vendor-teacher relationship has been building for a few years now. It was something that happened naturally, yet, in my experience, was anything but common. I understand now that this is just how Tech4Learning operates. Yes, they are a commercial organization. They exist to make money, and I sincerely hope they make boatloads of it.
I don't think any of us begrudge anyone else for making a living. I think the tension, if any exists, between vendors and teachers is that teachers, by the nature of what we do, are usually not business-minded. We are often not in the position to decide where money is spent, and many of us regularly spend our own money on supplies for work. There are stereotypes and bad experiences to contend with- the sleazy salesperson, the hideous customer non-service with companies who sell a product, then run and hide. It can get in the way of our pure-minded notions of education. But, let's face it-everything costs. Educating kids well costs money. Putting on a conference like NECC costs money. And I've never yet attended a conference where anyone was forced to enter the exhibit hall.
An important post. You clearly distinguish between vendors who truly want to make a difference and provide meaningful products and those just interested in a sale.
Kinda reminds of the divide we currently see in education between those really wanting to make a difference, recognizing there has to be a different/better way and those who just want to collect a check.
I completely agree.
It has been a transformative experience for me being involved with a company like Tech4Learning. First of all, they make great software. They seek student and teacher feedback as they develop their products, and it shows. If that's not enough, check out their website to see the free resources they provide including a lesson library, a ning for teachers to share projects and the high-quality, non-software-specific Creative Educator magazine.
I considered it an honor to be able to represent Tech4Learning at NECC and to have the opportunity to share some of my students' work in their booth. I found myself hanging around to watch the presentations of fellow teachers. I certainly didn't have to spend my time in the Tech4Learning booth with so much to see and do and experience at NECC. I was drawn there, quite simply, by the quality of the presentations. After each presentation attendees were given a full-version CD of Tech4Learning software. No hard sell.
I'm about to wrap up, but I'd like to share a story. This, to me, says all there is to say in answer to the question of whether companies can care about anything other than profits.
I teach at a Jewish school with a dual-language curriculum in English and Hebrew. We have trouble finding software for the macs that supports Hebrew. When I first purchased Pixie, we used it to make Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) cards for some students in Israel. Through her own network (which at the time did not include me) Melinda Kolk, Director of Professional Development at Tech4Learning got a look at those cards. Can you imagine my surprise and gratitude when I received an email from her asking if it would be helpful if they added the Hebrew alphabet to the Pixie sticker library?
Small private schools do not wield the big-dollar contracts of large public districts. I'm sure it would be easier and more profitable to ignore us. Unless, of course, you really care.